A United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) says an estimated 78
per cent of Zimbabweans are absolutely poor but the fragile coalition
government says the economy is stabilizing.
The report released Wednesday said a burgeoning HIV/AIDS pandemic has killed many breadwinners to leave large numbers of child-headed families and 55 per cent of the population living below the bread line.
“Currently approximately 78 per cent of the population of Zimbabwe is
absolutely poor and 55 per cent live below the food poverty line,” the
UNICEF’s Child-Sensitive Social Protection in Zimbabwe report said.
“People living below the food poverty line cannot meet any of their basic needs and suffer from chronic hunger. It is estimated that approximately 6.6 million people including 3.5 million children suffer from this extreme form of deprivation.”
Zimbabwe authorities place the poverty dutum line at US$450 and that
caters for a family of six. But the civil servants- the bulk of the workforce earn as little as US$150.
However, Zimbabwe’s economy registered its first growth in a decade last year after the coalition government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai implemented measures, including the adoption of multiple currencies, that doused hyperinflation.
But incessant bickering between Mugabe and Tsvangirai over how to share executive power continues to scare away foreign investors whose funds are vital to any effort to rebuild Zimbabwe’s shattered economy.
Unicef says one in four children are orphaned as a result of Aids-related deaths and place the figure at 1.3 million. “Our research shows that one in four children in Zimbabwe is orphaned by HIV/Aids related deaths and vulnerable,” Unicef Zimbabwe spokesperson, Tsitsi Singizi said.
Singizi adds that beyond the obvious lack of material needs, many orphans and vulnerable children are also exposed to exploitation and abuse. “About 100 000 orphans live in child headed households with no breadwinners, adult supervision and external support,” she said.
“Sadly this means a growing number of orphaned children are forced to drop out of school, have no access to health services, food and other crucial basic services due to lack of money.”
With over 2000 HIV/Aids related deaths in Zimbabwe every week, child
experts and Unicef warn that the orphan crisis is alarming. About 1.8 million Zimbabweans are said to be living with HIV, according to the United Nations estimates.
Out of the 1.8 million, about 16,000 of them are on anti-retroviral
drugs (ARV’s) in Zimbabwe.